The government is committed to supporting innovative young entrepreneurs as part of efforts geared at boosting job-creation and ensuring sustainable development in the country, Clare Akamanzi, head of strategy and policy unit at the Office of the President, has said.
She said, though local businesses still face some challenges, the government has put in place initiatives, like the new Youth Innovations Fund, to bolster start-ups and job-creation initiatives.
“As a country, we believe that entrepreneurship plays an instrumental role toward job-creation and poverty reduction, which will spur economic development. So, the government’s support to enterprising youth has been a key priority for Rwanda despite the existing challenges,” she said during the just-concluded second annual Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Foundation (TEEF) forum in Lagos, Nigeria.
TEEF is the flagship programme of Nigerian entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony O. Elumelu. The two-day forum attracted over 1,000 entrepreneurs from all the 54 African countries, investors and political leaders to discuss ways to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs.
Addressing the participants, Akamanzi noted that many would-be entrepreneurs lack start-up capital, while the existing businesses have limited access to finances to grow their ventures.
“These challenges are also a common issue in the region and, globally, Rwanda has put in place initiatives, like Business Development Fund, and the Youth Innovations Fund, to address them. It’s a process,” she adds.
This year, 20 Rwandans were selected for funding and mentorship under the programme compared to 15 last year. However, only three attended that TEEF forum in Nigeria. All the 20 entrepreneurs, from different sectors of economy, including information and communication technology, agriculture, healthcare, and general trade, will each get $10,000 seed capital funding.
Rwanda’s TEEF Class of 2016 speak out
Yvette Ishimwe, the proprietor of Iriba Clean Water Delivery, a firm that provides safe water in her community in Kayonza District, said the opportunity has inspired their entrepreneurial journey and enabled them to look at things differently.
“I want to use the skills and knowledge from the forum to revolutionalise and revitalise my project, as well as work hard and empower the communities around me,” says the second year student of Business Administration at Kepler University, Kigali.
The 19-year-old runs a water treatment and supply business in Kayonza, Eastern Province, providing clean water to over 250 households.
“The plan is to build the business into a more structured and sustainable venture, which will also help me increase access to safe water to more households,” she said.
Selemani Nyirurugo, whose business idea seeks to transform carrots into finished products like juice and cakes, noted that the programme gave him new insights, especially on innovation, work ethic, and business management.
“A lot of agro-produce is wasted, yet it can be processed into new products that can help reduce hunger on the continent. So, I want to use innovative ways to turn carrots that are usually wasted into cakes and juice,” says Nyirurugo, a fresh graduate of rural development and agriculture. He adds that he will use the seed capital and the knowledge gained from the forum to kick-start the project and develop it into a sustainable enterprise.
Another Rwandan from the TEEF class of 2016, Denyse Uwineza, owns an ICT-based company that deals in software management and application development.
Uwineza believes that programmes like the TEEF forum help to shape and guide enterprising youth in growing and managing businesses. “The forum is the only platform that brings together innovative young people from across the continent to meet and share experiences” she noted. She adds that ideas of many young and aspiring entrepreneurs die because they lack capital, knowledge and skills.
Uwineza said the TEEF forum is helping to address some of these challenges and create a mass of young business owners that are going to create thousands of much-needed jobs on the continent.
TEEF is supporting entrepreneurs with some $100 million for the next 10 years. It targets creating over one million new jobs and contributing up to $10 billion in revenues across Africa.Follow https://twitter.com/Julio_Bizimungu